Disabled not getting jobs despite investment of £700m


THE investment of more than £700 million by the State and the EU in training for people with disabilities has largely failed to open up the labour market to the disabled, according to a new EU report.

About £484 million was spent by the State and the European Social Fund between 1973 and, 1993 on training people with disabilities. But in that time only a minority of trainees attained the primary stated objective of the programmes - open access for the disabled to the labour market the report from the ESF Evaluation Unit says.

The unit, based at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, evaluates spending on all ESF programmes.

A further £234 million has been allocated for training from 1994 to 1999, but the report predicts that most trainees will not get open access to the jobs market.

Between 1991 and 1993, only one trainee in 10 on National Rehabilitation Board programmes went on to find work, the report says.

It cites attitudes in society to disability and people with disabilities, rather than the quality of training, as reasons why the potential for integrating disabled people into the workplace has not been fully realised.

The report says many of those involved in training programmes question the emphasis on open employment, and suggest that training for supported and sheltered work should also be eligible for ESF supports.

"While open employment may be the logical next step after training for some people with disabilities, it is unreasonable to assume that all will make the move in one step," it says, adding that it is unreasonable to believe all will make any transition.

The report, which runs to more than 500 pages, says information on the results of training is of limited use. It blames different and sometimes inadequate information systems used by the various agencies for this, as well as a lack of agreement on the outcomes of training.

It appears most trainees leave training schemes for reasons other than employment or further training. Many leave for medical reasons or because they are deemed unsuitable for the training in question. Some, however, do leave for further training or sheltered employment.

About 11,600 ESF supported training places were filled between 1991 and 1993, and 18,400 people with disabilities availed of training. In 1993, the average cost a year of training a person with disability was £10,500. More than 40 statutory and non governmental agencies provide the training, under the co ordination of the NRB.

Aside from placement rates to employment, the impact of the ESF programmes has been wide ranging, the report suggests. Quality services have been developed and new opportunities created for staff working with the disabled.

However, the potential of people with disabilities for integrated employment has not been fully realised. "The primary factors are attitudes towards disability and towards people with disabilities, the nature of disability and employing organisations, and physical and structural factors such as those related to physical access, the income support system for people with disabilities and factors specific to mainstream and specialist training systems.

The responsibility of industry and society to accommodate the needs of the disadvantaged needs, to be explored. Industry's need for "the best people at the least, cost" raises the question of its role in accommodating "those who may not be the best but perhaps are the best they can be in the circumstances.

"One could ask why the trainee should fit into an existing structure, and why industry should not attempt to adapt its structure?"

Most investment in training for the disabled and other disadvantaged groups is being done without reference to "the reality of employing organisations" and without seriously addressing ways of helping to make each person a valued member of society, it adds.